Predicting Horvat’s next contract

Updated: December 1, 2016 at 9:00 am by Ryan Biech

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Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing

A few short weeks ago, I suggested that the Canucks would be wise to make inroads on a long-term extension for Bo Horvat post-haste. The Canucks announced not long after that they’d signed Ben Hutton to a two-year extension.

Following the announcement of the Hutton deal, Horvat was brought up:

Music to many a Canucks fans ears!

It was originally my intention to include a prognostication into Horvat’s new contract in my last article on the subject. Time constraints such as they are, that never came to fruition. So with that, let’s revisit the notion and dive into what Horvat might expect in a new, long-term deal with the Canucks.

CBA: Impact on Contract

First off, the length of deal is important for Horvat. He will be completing his third full season in the NHL, which means that unrestricted free agency is on the horizon. Article 10.1 of the NHL CBA lays out the ground rules for UFA eligibility:

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Given Horvat’s status, any deal over four years in length is purchasing UFA years. With that in mind, it would serve the Canucks well to avoid a four-year pact as it would be nothing short of a platform to the open market. They can land on any side of that mark, but it’s key they avoid four years. Based on Canucks General Manager Jim Benning’s comments, one would have to believe they’re probably taking the over.

That seems a savvy play in the long run. The short-term cost may be slightly prohibitive, but it has the added effect of mitigating long-term damage. A bridge deal, however, grants the Canucks added flexibility in the interim at the expense of tomorrow. Of course, that operates on the assumption that Horvat continues his ascendency up the NHL stats page.

Per Article 11.8 of the CBA, the team cannot provide their player a no-trade clause until they qualify for Group 3 unrestricted free agency:

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This means that a no trade clause or no movement clause cannot be applied to Horvat’s contract until 2021-22. 

Stats

During Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman mused on Horvat’s oncoming extension and named two players specifically as comparable players to Horvat — Victor Rask and Rickard Rackell. Following up on this, I found that the two jump out as similar players whose contracts might’ve laid the groundwork for Horvat’s. 

They’re not the only players, though. I’ve added some more for comparison’s sake. Players like Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Sean Couturier and Vincent Trocheck came to mind.

All of them signed their extensions at different times, so it’s important to use the stats and cap information at the time. Their deals are below:

Player Term AAV 1st year of deal
Barkov 6 yrs $5.9M 2016-17
Bjugstad 6 yrs $4.1M 2015-16
Couturier 6 yrs $4.33M 2016-17
Rakell 6 yrs $3.79M 2016-17
Rask 6 yrs $4.0M 2016-17
Trocheck 6 yrs $4.75M 2016-17

The common theme here is a series of six-year deals. Given the cost of UFA years, that makes sense.

These contracts range from $3.8-million on the low end to $5.9 on the high end.

Timing matters here. Barkov, Bjugstad and Couturier were all signed in the midst of their previous contracts. Rask, Rakell and Trocheck were signed at the conclusion of their entry-level contracts. It’s also worth noting that Couturier was in the middle of his bridge deal when he signed long term.

Now, it’s time for some numbers. Let’s look at the players P/60 over the last few seasons and see where each stands.

P:60 Horvat

Horvat Rask Barkov Bjugstad Couturier Rakell Trocheck
2012-13 N/A N/A N/A 0.39 1.16 N/A N/A
2013-14 N/A N/A 1.43 2.01 1.52 1.23 1.12
2014-15 1.69 1.22 1.72 1.75 1.36 1.7 2.03
2015-16 1.43 1.48 2.25 1.24 1.96 1.9 2.18
2016-17 2.11 2.08 1.54 0 1.28 2.59 1.27

With the exception of Horvat and Bjugstad, everyone’s contract year was last season. For accuracy’ sake, I’ve compared Horvat’s production this season to theirs last campaign.

P:60 Contract

Contract Year P/60
Barkov 15-16 2.25
Trocheck 15-16 2.18
Horvat 16-17 2.11
Rakell 15-16 1.9
Bjugstad 14-15 1.75
Rask 15-16 1.48
Couturier 14-15 1.36

All this goes to prove that Horvat, on this current career trajectory, is trending towards the upper echelon of the league’s young centres. Rask offers comparable production, but always a year ahead. His 2.08 P/60 matches closely to Horvat’s P/60 of 2.11 this season. Rask, however, is already into his extension, though, whereas Horvat’s in his ELC.

Horvat’s production should command somewhere in the $4-million-plus range. Let’s use HERO Charts too, though. 

Story 1-2

Horvat vs. Trocheck:

Story 1

Horvat doesn’t match well with Trocheck in every category but looks roughly comparable to Bjugstad. Context is key though. Horvat is just starting to hit his stride. It won’t surprise me if he’s surpassed Bjugstad offensively by season’s end. By that same token, Horvat’s underlying data certainly doesn’t flatter.

All that said, we can reasonably posit Horvat lies somewhere between the two players in ability.

Another thing working in Horvat’s favour is his primary point production. Former Canucks Army writer Dimitri Filipovic wrote a piece for Sportsnet on Tuesday, breaking down primary points around the NHL. Horvat was second in percentage with nine primary points in ten on ice goals for in 5v5 play. One might reasonably expect those numbers to regress, but it’s a valuable snapshot into the impact he’s having on driving even strength offence all the same.

It’s also worth noting is the precedent the Canucks set with Brandon Sutter’s deal. Shortly after acquiring Sutter, the Canucks signed him to a five-year deal with an AAV of $4.35-million. Sutter’s career high is 40 points, from the 2009-10 season. Since then, he’s never surpassed 33. Horvat’s already crested the 40 point plateau and is well on pace to break that mark this season.

Comparing the two with P/60:

Sutter:Horvat

Horvat Sutter
2012-13 N/A 1.18
2013-14 N/A 0.94
2014-15 1.69 1.18
2015-16 1.43 1.42
2016-17 2.11 1.36

This pushes the needle closer to $4.5-million per season.

Mitigating Factors  

When we just look at the data, it’s clear Horvat is in the lower range of the $4-million AAV on a six-year deal. But Horvat has a lot of leverage in this situation.

Horvat’s on the upswing regarding production, as evidenced by the P/60 marks highlighted above. The Canucks are also in a sticky situation concerning PR. Can they really afford to let this situation drag out into the summer?

If they can’t sign him long term, who is the options to take his role at centre?

At this moment, the Canucks are okay at centre ice with Sutter, Markus Granlund, Henrik Sedin, Brendan Gaunce and Brendan Horvat. But Henrik won’t be around forever, and they are playing Sutter on the wing, and they could very easily lose Granlund or Gaunce in the expansion draft.

Essentially, the Horvat camp has the advantage over the Canucks, for the following reasons:

  • Canucks have admitted they would like to sign him long term.
  • Horvat has intangibles that the club values.
  • The lack of other options for the organization.
  • The precedent set with Sutter.

A smart representation will see these things and use them to extract as much value as possible from the organization. Given that Horvat’s representation is Newport Sports, it’s an easy conclusion to figure out that they know that have the upper hand here. Elliotte Friedman touched on the subject in this weeks ’30 Thoughts’, mentioning that Newport Sports has a history of waiting it out:

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Conclusion

There have been suggestions that Horvat could get Barkov money, but he isn’t quite there yet. That isn’t to say he won’t get closer to that number if his recent point streak continues.

On the flip side, there have been suggestions that Rakell and Rask are his matches. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Given Sutter’s contract, the price likely starts at $4.35-million per season. If this drags out, and Horvat continues to put up points, he will enter the Trocheck and Barkov area of offensive production, despite his underlying numbers struggling. Using what Friedman mentions, that is likely what happens — the Horvat camp waits out for as long as possible, putting pressure on the Canucks.

Had the Canucks had got a head start on this, it likely would’ve resulted in some savings. But at this point, the Horvat train has left the station, and we can only watch as it chugs along to the sounds of a cash register.

If the Canucks had concluded the deal now, the argument could be made that six years at $4.5M per season, would’ve been the ballpark. Now, if the Horvat deal digs its heels in, and the production continues at the same pace or rises we could see $5-million PLUS per season.

My prediction for the deal is 6 years at $5-million per season, with a no-trade clause for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.


All data is up to and including games on November 29, 2016.

Contract information from Cap friendly

P/60 data from stats.hockeyanalysis.com